Kallie E. Benjamin (Valerie Burns) is the author of the Bailey the Bloodhound Mystery series. The first book, Sniffing Out Murder released on December 5, 2023. Valerie is an Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, and Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist. Writing as V. M. Burns she is the author of the Mystery Bookshop Mystery, Dog Club Mystery, and RJ Franklin Mystery series. Writing as Valerie Burns, she is the author of the Baker Street Mystery series.
Q: How did you choose your pseudonym?
Kallie: Kallie was my great grandmother’s name. I never knew my grandmother but did know my great grandmother. The “E” is from my mom whose name was Elvira but decided not to use Elvira as my author’s name. My dad’s first name was Benjamin.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your story?
Kallie: I get nervous when I start a new series, hoping readers will enjoy it. Dogs are my thing and I wanted to write a new series with a new breed of dog. To me, a bloodhound symbolizes search and rescue. This series has a lot of family ties for me. Also, when I write cozies what is important to me is the ‘who done it.’
Q: Could you elaborate on the significance of family in your story?
Kallie: It is set in Indiana, which is where I am from. The town’s name, Crosbyville is based on one of my nephew’s children, Crosby. His other child is named Cameron. The main character, Priscilla, is an author and her agent’s name is Cameron. Her best friend, Marcella is named after my niece’s daughter. Since I write murder mysteries, I will make sure that these names will endure and continue without having to be a character that can potentially get murdered or be considered a person of interest.
Q: Why did you choose to make Bailey, the Bloodhound, a therapy dog?
Kallie: I used to do therapy with my poodles. We would go to nursing homes and hospitals. I wanted him to help with assisted reading. When a child had to testify it was found that they were less stressed if they spoke directly to the dog.
Q: You’ve incorporated elements of nostalgia into your book. Can you tell us more about that choice?
Kallie: LOL. I brought in Andy Griffith and Magnum PI. I ran some things by my niece who just turned thirty. She told me she watches the reruns of the old shows. I enjoyed throwing things in there.
Q: Whitney, the victim in your story, wasn’t a very likable character, was she?
Kallie: I based her on Cruella de Ville to a small extent. I usually murder someone who no one likes. They usually are villainous. Both Whitney and Cruella had issues with dogs. They viewed their agenda as more important than anything else. They are single-minded without any concern about what happens to others. I use real people in my life in my books when they make me mad. It is therapeutic for me. I will use their initials but change the names to be the victim.
Q: How would you describe your main character, Priscilla?
Kallie: Pris and I have in common that we both have a job that provides income, but we are also authors. We have that same passion about writing mysteries that includes dogs. Pris wants to help people and can recognize people’s shortcomings. She is also a klutz and very curious.
Q: Can you give us an insight into the character of police chief Gilbert?
Kallie: He has dedicated his life to protecting others. He is very direct, straightforward, responsible, and protective. He also is a single parent, raising his daughter. As the story progresses readers will find out more about his late wife and her family. His daughter and family are very important to him. His relationship with Pris will continue and grow stronger, although there will be some conflict surrounding their views.
Q: What can readers expect in your next book?
Kallie: The setting is a festival in Crosbyville where a murder occurred. Bailey finds clues that get Pris more involved in the mystery. The working title is Hounding a Killer, coming out in late 2024.
Sniffing Out Murder by Kallie E. Benjamin, the pen name for Valerie Burns, is the first in a new series. This book is a delightful read that has humor and a riveting ‘who done it.’
Readers are introduced to the main character, Priscilla Cummings, who is a teacher by day and a children’s author by night. That is until she has found success with her first children’s book, about the adventures of her dog, Bailey the Bloodhound. Because of her success she has decided to become a full-time author, but also continues to have Bailey assist children to read. Bailey is a trained therapy dog and frequently goes to the local library to have children read to him and watch him demonstrate his tracking skills.
The mystery has Bailey sniffing out a murder, digging up the body of Whitney Kelly. She is a mean girl who earlier had a confrontation with Priscilla. But Pris is not the only enemy she has made, and the list of suspects continues to grow for Police Chief Gilbert Morgan. He is tenacious and determined to find the killer, but readers also see his other side. Raising his daughter Hannah as a single parent, he is very caring and gentle. Both he and Pris develop a relationship after Bailey helps Hannah with her reading skills and Pris becomes involved in solving the murder mystery.
Readers will be kept guessing until the very end about who done it. This plot has it all: delightful characters, great banter, a mystery, and a sweet bloodhound.